VPNs May Be an Answer for Smart Phone Security

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This Processor piece mentions several approaches to smart phone security. The most space, however, is given to virtual private networks (VPNs), the family of products that create secure private paths over wired or wireless public networks.


The attention being paid to smart phone VPNs is an extension of the reaction to the iPhone. The bad guys follow the news, too, and have taken aim at the device. RealTechNews says the first iPhone vulnerability is "a doozy" that can enable what seems like unfettered access to the device. The vulnerability can let outsiders read the SMS message log, address book, call history and voicemail data and basically control the device as if there is no security at all.


Don't panic, however. BetaNews reports that Apple patched the vulnerability a couple of weeks later -- just in time for the Black Hat conference. While that obviously is good news, the incident is real world proof of what most people assumed from the start: The iPhone -- which Apple claims supports "industry standard" VPNs -- is a high-profile scalp for the cracker community.


At least one expert, however, doesn't buy into claims that the iPhone is a security problem. Yankee Group analyst Andrew Jaquith, quoted in Macworld, says claims that the device is insecure and not enterprise-ready both are overblown.


That debate will eventually fade away. The point is that the iPhone isn't the only advanced smart phone-type device fit for VPN protection. For instance, Research in Motion's BlackBerry 8820, which was introduced last month, features both cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity and offers IP Security (IPSec) VPN support. The Processor piece sees the emergence of the Windows Mobile operating system as the step that led people to realize that advanced handhelds were appropriate for much more than e-mail and to begin addressing the security ramifications of that assessment.


All this news has fueled interest in smart phones for VPNs. Earlier this summer, for instance, NCP Engineering added support for various versions of Windows Mobile 6.0 to its IPSec VPN mobile client. Separately, SonicWALL -- soon after the mid-July close of its acquisition of Aventail -- introduced the Aventail STv. SonicWall says it is the only enterprise-level secure socket layer (SSL) VPN available for PDAs and smart phones.